Guardian ad Litem Team,
The House and Senate are close to agreement on a General Appropriations Act and hope to pass a final budget no later than June 19. Based on the decisions made to date (and these are not likely to change at this point), the Guardian ad Litem budget will remain at its current level of funding for next fiscal year. This means we are simply awaiting passage of the final Appropriations Act.
Although I am disappointed that we did not receive funding for program growth to keep up with the demand and workload or for pay increases, I am very grateful to Governor Rick Scott and his staff for the unwavering support they have given to our request. We have been very fortunate over the past three years to receive significant increases for budget and positions. We have grown our staff by more than 29% and our budget by more than 22%. These are major increases when you consider the many priorities the legislature had the past last 3 years. As a result we are reaching more children than ever and supporting more than 10,000 volunteers.
You probably also know by now that across the board pay raises were not allocated for State employees. The fact that we will not be adding new positions come July gives us a chance to solidify our position and strengthen the quality of our representation and advocacy. In essence, we have the coming fiscal year to stabilize our program and our staff after several years of growth. Next year’s legislative session begins in January rather than March, so we look forward to an early start and the opportunity to once again make our case for program growth to meet the increased needs and workload and a move toward more equitable pay.
We must recognize that there were issues far beyond our scope that held the attention of both houses this year. It was clear to me through the budget decisions that were made, that the legislature is placing priority on GAL representation of children in out of home care. That has also been our priority based on the child welfare statutes. Both DCF and the Community Based Care lead agencies received increases to address this growing population. We plan to look carefully at the characteristics of the in-home dependent children population before the coming session, so that we can educate the legislative leadership about the risk factors in out of home care; with these facts they can make an informed policy decision about the GAL role and resource needs with respect to in-home dependent children population.
After the session is over, I plan to hold meetings at your offices to get the input from staff, volunteers and supporters on priorities, needs, and planning for the year ahead and the coming legislative session. I will talk with you about where we are going and what we hope to accomplish in the months ahead. Feel free to respond with feedback or thoughts. If you wish to talk with me personally about these issues, you can feel free to call me at 850-241-3232.
If anything changes in the next week I will update you. Thanks for all you do each day to make a difference in children’s lives.
Guardian ad Litem Program